“When eight people are laid off from an institution, it’s not a happy day,” said David Blum, incoming editor-in-chief of the Village Voice.
Blum was on the phone after a meeting with staff at the newspaper’s Cooper Square office. Last week, his superiors-to-be at Village Voice Media dismissed eight staffers from the weekly paper. Today, six days before his official Sept. 12 start date, Blum told the remaining staff that no more layoffs were in the works, and that any future dismissals would go through him, according to a staffer present at the meeting.
“I felt it was important for them to hear from me,” Blum said.
About 40 Voice employees and freelance contributors crammed into the newspaper’s third-floor conference room at 3 p.m.
During the half-hour meeting, several long-time staffers, including Tom Robbins, Nat Hentoff and Wayne Barrett posed questions to Blum. Topics included whether more writers will be hired and how the paper will approach international and national news coverage, according to a staffer.
As expected, Village Voice Media, the company that purchased the alternative weekly this past November–then under the name New Times–came up often.
The Voice is a unionized paper, and New Times was accustomed to working with nonunion shops. Blum, a member of the Writers Guild in his previous job as a television writer, told the staff that he was a “union guy,” though now in a managerial role.
“He had strong words about how he is in charge,” said a Voice staffer. “If he doesn’t think that something’s right, he’s not going to do it.”
“Beginning Sept. 12, what happens at the paper is my responsibility,” Blum said. “I wanted them to put a face to future developments so they know who to blame–or shower with praise.
On Sept. 7, Blum is scheduled to fly out to Denver to meet with Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice media, and other company executives. Although Lacey hired Blum, the pair only met once, during a job interview at the Hotel on Rivington.
And what issues might come up in Denver?
“I think the main concern seems to be that the staff wants [to] see its content provided by its own writers, and not by writers outside of New York,” Blum said. “By and large, I agree with that.”